Laos will not be found in the offer of almost any tourist agency. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine the ordinary passenger to take twenty-five-hour drive in a dilapidated bus, at up to thirty kilometers per hour. It doesn’t go faster because the entire route is on the winding dirt road, with an abyss on one side, and an impassable jungle on the other.
Before Luang Prabang, a provincial town in northern Laos, we have not seen any concrete houses. Only wood with thatched roof, and dark-skinned people in front of them, often only in their underwear.
The only thing that we are looking after our marathon was sleeping. And then the shock. After we visited ten, by no means luxurious rooms, we came to understand how this service in Luang Prabang was three times the price compared to Thailand.
Obviously, they only recently encountered tourism and are trying to make a quick buck, but their rooms were sitting there empty. Luckily we find the one who lowered prices to only five dollars per person and therefore had a house full of guests, mostly backpackers.
After a restful sleep we are headed to rent bikes for touring. And then we realize that those too are expensive. We would pay the money, but we refused a contract in which, in small letters, it says that in the event of any damage to or loss of vehicles we would have to pay three thousand dollars. Interesting. We continue along with the “Tuk-Tuk”.
Our main destination is Kuang Si Waterfalls, thirty kilometers away. One of the most beautiful I’ve seen in my life. From the top of the hill, over one hundred meters high, running water which forms a free fall into three major and several minor levels. The water is lovely and clear and shines like a turquoise jewel in the heart of the jungle. We climbed to the top of the waterfall and enjoyed the natural pool. Another feeling that cannot be forgotten.
A couple from Ireland witnessed how journey to our dreams sometimes leads away from our homes. They have made one of the most beautiful parks for hundreds of species of butterflies near the waterfall.
If the cave Hang One was the biggest attraction of this travel, then Luang Prabang certainly took the title of the city with the most excitements. Here we walked on bamboo bridges, visited the magnificent temples, rode elephants and witnessed the true simplicity of life, like when we watched a fisherman who was fishing on the Mekong.
What he caught after three hours of casting his net, our fishermen would throw to cats. But he went home with a genuine smile on his face. Luang Prabang was a home run.
The day after we went to elephant riding on the river coast. The elephant belong to a family that doesn’t use violence to train them, in which we were conviced becouse it didn’t had any scars, like it’s relatives from Thailand – so we went for that unforgetable experience. Afret the tour trought the willage, we are leaving to town to see the night market.
Like in the simmilar markets trough Asia, you can by everything here. In this market we found original asian rhino horn, so Toni went to notify the police. Of course, the police laughed at his face, and said that they will send a patrole. It is hard to seek justice for animals in the land in which people barely survive.
It is amazing how time passes by while traveling. You have a feeling that month flew in a moment, and again the events of yesterday looked like they were a month ago. Anyway, here we are at the very end of the road in Vientiane, capital of Laos, located at the very south, near the border with Thailand.
As we no longer have much time, we visit the monumental “Buddha Park” in nearby Xiengkuaneu, with hundreds of small Gautami statues and one higher than thirty meters, and immediately after that we rush to the Pha That Luang, a golden Buddhist temple from the third century, which is an important symbol of Laos.
Namely, it is on both the national flag and the bank notes. And yet the evidence that what is outlined may not be the most interesting part of ones’ journey. When we came in front of that really beautiful building, it immediately fell into the background.
Moreover, we forgot it when we faced the nearby modest temple encountered in front of which hundreds of people celebrated Phravet. Or in other words – Buddha Festival. Proof that, to the travel writer, spontaneous human stories preceded the static structure, no matter how important it may be.
The festival was chaotic human beehive with lots of color and energy. Live music accompanied the family and tribes contests on who will perform a better color dance performance or donate more money to the temple in various ways, from sticking to the giant cardboard elephants to decorated branches. The children jostled the floor for the blessed rice tossed by the elderly, and the poor could eat and drink for free.
I was just filming a scene where grandfather simulated hitting children tied with ropes, with beautiful and traditionally dressed girls in the background, when I saw to another European. He told me that he came to Laos just for the event. It’s nice when you accidentally run into rare events. It is the magic of travelling.
Time to go back home. Since I last visited most of Thailand – from Chiang Mai, tribes in Mae Khao Tom, Ayutthaya, Sukhothaija and Lampang, to Bangkoga and Kanchanaburija – this time we slept through that part during night drive and found ourselves on a small and relatively unknown island of Koh Samet, in southeastern Thailand.
For me, the journey ended and what was left was the trip home, where I will continue this story through photo exhibitions, travelogues, panels and editing the documentary. Tony was still walking enthusiastically barefoot along the shore, losing the last of the skin on the foot that remained. I was laying finally like a real tourist on the beautiful beach gathering impressions.
Statistically, in thirty days we visited four countries, twelve cities, four museums and four national parks. We passed 22.651 km, of which 7,183 kilometers by road and by water, using as many as eight different vehicles and – our feet.
Indochina is definitely a completely different place from any other on our planet. Dangerous? Mostly not. Moreover, one of the safer. Probably many are interested which of this four countries is the best?
Well it depends on what is “the best” for you. For some it is camping out in nature, to others it may be knocking their head on the bar. The third maybe just want to rest. There are various reasons. I will try to define in a few sentences.
– Thailand – the most developed country in the region. Beautiful, but way too much commercial. It is divided into travelogue north, entertaining middle and relaxing south. The monarchy with the most of beautiful temples.
– Cambodia – although poor and impoverished by war, the monarchy still has the original and authentic charm. Apart from fantastic Angkor Wat, cheap to live, travel and entertain.
– Vietnam – well balanced destination. The coast, nature, cities and different climates – from tropical in the south to the cold in the north – suits travelers, tourists and those looking for fun.
– Laos – even though it is a communist country, as well as Vietnam, more and more welcoming to capital and tourists. Rarely visited, therefor falls under exoticism. A paradise for adventurers and nature lovers, because the whole country had been one big – jungle.
I parted with Tony at the Zagreb airport.
He asked: “Do we travel again?”
I said, quoting a colleague Davor Rostuhar: “Of course. Just keep it going…”